Our second meeting of the day, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, held Thursday at 5:30 PM in the City Commission chambers, was a wasted trip.
A couple months ago, when Commissioner Cesar de Leon proposed transferring the GBIC meetings from the BEDC Board Room at ITEC to the commission chambers, it seemed like a great idea: greater public access, and, especially, use of the public address system so the entire audience could hear clearly how $4,500,000 in 4A "economic development" tax dollars were being dispersed, how those projects were weighed and SERIOUSLY considered by thoughtful, prepared, grownup board members.
At meeting time, 5:30 PM, two board members, John Cowen, Jr. and David Betancourt were sitting in the elevated seats of the City Commission chambers, idly chitchatting. I told Nena they must be waiting for a third member to constitute a quorum, but they shared nothing with the "audience" in the way of an explanation.
At 5:45 PM, GBIC Board Chairman Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa appeared, moving quickly into her chair to start the meeting. She may have apologized for tardiness, but we could hear nothing from the other side of the "1931 original rail," separating the City Commission from the public and "preserving the intregrity" of the chambers, according to the plaque on the rail. The public address system, consisting of microphones in front of each board member was not turned on.
Since, there was nothing to learn from a so-called "public" board meeting we could not hear, we left.
Actually, Nena and I were most likely the entire, non-participatory members of the "audience." Luis Granado was there for yet another inaudible finance report. Gilbert Salinas, sat behind us, pouring over his notes for an economic report. Jason Hilts conferred a couple times with City Attorney Mark Sossi. I suspect the mother and two daughters also in the audience were their to "testify" about the wonders of VIDA, a program up for monthly funding approval.
|Emile Berliner, with his 1876 invention, the microphone|
The microphone was invented by Emile Berliner in 1876. When will City of Brownsville board members learn how to use them? Perhaps, more importantly, when will these board members, moving millions of tax dollars around annually, begin to understand the meaning of a "public" board meeting or that "accessible" means not just allowed in the room but being able to hear the meeting?